Philosopher’s Stones

AJ Ayer PhilosopherAlfred Jules ‘Little Mac’ Ayer.

Before I started my blog, I had a grand idea for a web site. was to be an open-source project, a comprehensive reference guide for people with an inclination to self-study. There remains the need for such a place.

I noticed that, whenever I wanted to consummate one of my intellectual crushes—Romeo-like in their fervor and fugacity—by purchasing a book or two on the subject (as my friend Oussama says, ‘A book bought is a book half-read’), the best resource available was Amazon. It was, however, terribly unreliable. I didn’t want the most convenient books or (*shudder*) the best-selling books, I wanted the best books, period. I wanted the classics, tempered by cruel time; the life’s works, the giants on the shoulders of giants, the very testaments to the sapience of the homo sapiens!

Occasionally, an informed fan or professor had put together a list of such texts, accompanied by thoughtful commentary. Naturally, however, being on the internet, most were written by numbskulls or acolytes of some dubious cause. Even those with good intentions were limited by Amazon’s inventory. would have attempted to provide a modest selection of expedient literature on an exhaustive list of potential objects, events, topics and persons for study. The site’s custodians would have been enthusiasts with the appropriate credentials. Each subject would have a project leader and a core group of editors to update their subject and filter contributions to its page.

A long list of deficiencies kept me from starting the site, but had I completed the project, I would have wanted it to resemble the London Philosophy Study Guide. I used the LPSG‘s Aesthetics section to get up to speed when I started grad school, but I only recently saw that it covers other fields of philosophy, too. (Well, mainly analytic ones. If you were ever confused about the difference between the analytic and continental traditions, Brian Leiter’s introduction is the best and briefest introduction I’ve read. Or if you prefer a vulgar comparison: analytic rules, continental drools, and everyone still reads Wittgenstein. I find that continental fans are more likely to be the kind who show up in a Philosophy of Religion class because they want to talk about what god means to them, or who write papers about Derrida but don’t have the time to read Husserl first, or who would sniff at a philosophical notion because it was a decade old, etc.)

So, Autodidacts, another valuable resource; I just picked up a Quine anthology. If anyone is still interested in starting the site, let me know. It seems possible now.

I’ll leave you with a classic Ayer anecdote:

At a party [in 1989] held by fashion designer Fernando Sanchez, Ayer, then 77, confronted Mike Tyson harassing the (then little-known) model Naomi Campbell. When Ayer demanded that Tyson stop, the boxer said: ‘Do you know who the fuck I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world,’ to which Ayer replied: ‘And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.’

~ by ohkrapp on May 19, 2009.

2 Responses to “Philosopher’s Stones”

  1. Yes. Becoming. Me. Helping.

  2. bill hicks describes an lsd trip he took with some friends in high school. driving in one of their dad’s new sedan which had an electronic voice indicator that announced ‘the door is ajar’. they pulled the car onto the soft shoulder to in wonder and amazement…wow! the door is a jar!

    now that’s what i call auto didactic….
    i’m game for the – contributing to art theory and practice

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